From the first line of the first song, New Shackle Island stands proud as a bold declaration of intent by Nashville songwriters Foster and Chelsea McGinty. Giddy with the rush that comes from getting your courage up, holding hands, and plunging headlong into the purposeful pursuit of ones loftiest goals, New Shackle Island is a record of confident, in the pocket Alt-Country music. Spacious, arresting choruses painted with classic guy and gal harmonies belie accomplished composition, crafted with an eloquent economy of language. It’s precise, high-style New York songwriting polished to a high shine with music-row twang and honky-tonk electricity.
Our hero’s journey together begins not in a beer-soaked music hall west of the Cumberland but in a vintage clothing boutique in Manhattan’s Soho. Foster was exposed to music early and often; his father and uncle rehearsed their Classic Rock/Motown cover band in the families basement. Sometimes Foster would sit in with the band at bars along the Mississippi River in his hometown of Cape Girardeau, Missouri. Throughout his teenage years McGinty put together bands and after high school he made his debut under the name Foster McGinty in the city he was born in, Memphis, Tennessee. Soon enough Foster moved from the “bootheel” of Missouri to New York City to chase his rock’n’roll dreams, recording and gigging in support of a psychedelic rock record called Peach Red.
Planning a westward relocation to Los Angeles, Chelsea decided on one last visit to her favorite shop on Prince St. to find some boots. “It was about 10 minutes before closing time when I walked in,” she explains. “There was this guy standing there with a halo of curls. There was fuzzy white light around his face and I felt like someone had just blown dandelion fuzz in my face. I instantly saw a future bandmate and Foster says he saw his life partner. We were both right.” They stayed in touch, and when Chelsea could no longer resist the pull of the Big Apple they reconnected. They began working on music together and started playing out together as often as they could (Timeout New York called Foster “a head-turning guitar-pop craftsman.”) After their marriage the couple relocated to a woodland artists cottage in historic Woodstock, NY. While performing and writing in the Catskill Mountains, Chelsea’s voice became a vital part of the Foster McGinty sound. In Woodstock they recorded Foster McGinty’s sophomore release, The Lucy Stone, at legendary Dreamland Studios (a converted old church).
Determined to pursue their career to the fullest, they couple once again hit the road, this time settling in Music City. Waiting to release The Lucy Stone until after the move proved fruitful. “The record landed us on Nashville radio station Lightning 100 and got us booked on a few of their showcases and clubs around town” says Foster. “importantly, it brought us to Nashville. In New York City I played rock and focused on the guitar, but in Nashville I’ve honed my chops as a songwriter.”
New Shackle Island is the first music they’ve written together at their home in Nashville, and you can feel it in the music. “We live off of a main road called 'New Shackle Island’, so we thought that would be a fitting title for our first Tennessee record” says Foster. Recorded at producer Keith Gattis’ (George Strait, Dwight Yokam) Pioneertown Studios in East Nashville, the record features both Gattis and Audley Freed (The Black Crowes, Peter Frampton, Sheryl Crow) on guitar in addition to Foster. Fred Eltringham (Jacob Dylan, Sheryl Crow – who happens to be from the same part of Missouri as Foster) handled drums and percussion, John Henry Trinko played keys, and Billy Mercer and Jabe Beyer played bass.
Thematically, New Shackle Island is a paean to the human spirit, and the sense of freedom and exhilaration that comes from committing fully to following ones dreams. “It's hard to be who you want to be and do what you want to do in life” relates Foster. “These songs are about our dreams and that journey, but generally speaking life is a journey no matter who you are or what you're doing. Nothing is easy. I hope people can relate when listening and that it helps them push on with faith in the future.”
Chelsea and Foster McGinty hope those who listen will find some reassurance and a kindred spirit in the grooves of New Shackle Island. Sometimes it’s as much about the journey as it is the destination, and we can all find at least a small comfort in knowing the two of them are out there, chasing their dreams together.